CoQ10: An Update on an Old Standby

Nov 3, 2017

In the nutritional-supplements industry, ingredient fads come and go, waxing and waning in popularity and media attention. Some ingredients, however, earn the respect of consumers, physicians, journalists, and scientists alike, and retain their good reputation indefinitely. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is one such ingredient. 

Discovered in 1957 and finding a solid foothold in the supplements market within the last 15–20 years, CoQ10 “is one of the most studied—and more importantly, understood—dietary supplements” on the market today, says Scott Steinford, executive director at large of the CoQ10 Association (Salt Lake City, UT).

He explains that the human body synthesizes CoQ10, but our production of this fat-soluble compound declines as we age. “CoQ10 is utilized by every cell of the human body and is an intricate contributor to the ATP process,” Steinford continues. “In simplest terms, CoQ10 is responsible for converting food into energy. The effects of CoQ10 deficiency are most noticed in the organs that require the most energy production.” These organs include the liver, kidneys, and, of course, the heart.

“Thousands of studies have demonstrated the activity and importance of CoQ10 in heart health and many other human and veterinary health aspects,” Steinford contends, and demand for the ingredient seems to be in line with that assertion. “A 2017 survey of more than 9,500 respondents listed CoQ10 as the third most popular dietary supplement behind vitamin D and fish oil,” Steinford points out.

What’s more, some research has suggested that this ingredient holds promise for other emerging areas such as oral health. “The pharmacology of coenzyme Q10 indicates that it may be an agent for treatment of periodontitis,” say Shobra Prakash and co-researchers in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology, and “coenzyme Q10 may possibly be effective as a topical and/or systemic role or adjunctive treatment for periodontitis either as a stand-alone biological or in combination with other synergistic antioxidants (i.e., vitamins C and E).”

As such, “we are seeing strong sales growth in the natural channel in toothpaste with CoQ10 as an active ingredient,” says Jamie Phillips, director of scientific affairs at SPINS (Chicago, IL). While sales are relatively small, SPINS natural products specialist Kimberly Kawa states, “Sales in the Oral Care category within the Body Care department are up about 7%,” with Nature’s Answer’s PerioBrite toothpaste (a brightening formula with CoQ10 and folic acid) leading the way.


CoQ10 by the Numbers

In the Vitamin, Mineral, and Supplements category only, total sales of CoQ10 for the 52 weeks ending August 13, 2017 were roughly $164 million, down slightly (about 2%) from the previous year, while sales of ubiquinol (i.e., the fully reduced form of CoQ10) were up 1.3% from the previous year, according to the most recent SPINS data available. The slight downward trend of conventional CoQ10 (i.e., ubiquinone), says SPINS’ Phillips, is likely due to the fact that “it is an established supplement” with “no new news or marketing messages” in recent months.

As for ubiquinol, “it is more expensive than [ubiquinone], but has been found to be more effective for persons with certain conditions that inhibit the necessary conversion of CoQ10 in the body,” Kawa notes.

CoQ10 Association’s Steinford adds that ubiquinol is gaining popularity with consumers who are concerned with absorption and bioavailability; however, “ubiquinone [CoQ10’s fully oxidized form] still commands 90% of the overall CoQ10 market and remains the most recommended form of CoQ10,” he says.

Among physicians, CoQ10 has earned trust and confidence, too. A CoQ10 Association study of 100 cardiologists found that CoQ10 was the most-recommended supplement among this group and that 71% of cardiologists recommend the ingredient to “at least some” of their patients.


Dosing and Delivery

Demand for CoQ10 is on the rise. “In 2000,” Steinford says, “the global demand for CoQ10 was 37 metric tons, while in 2016, the global demand for CoQ10 exceeded 750 metric tons.” One reason for this significant uptick, he explains, is that the typical dosage increased from 5 to 30 mg in 2000 to about 120 mg today. He adds that the even higher 200-mg CoQ10 dosage is the fastest-growing one.

Vincent Tricarico, vice president of contract manufacturing at NutraScience Labs (Farmingdale, NY), says he is noticing CoQ10 in a “growing variety of formulations” beyond those for traditional cardiovascular support, including vision-support and antioxidant-specific formulations.

As for delivery systems, Tricarico says an oil-based liquid contained in either softgels or “standard two-piece veggie or gelatin capsules” is best. Steve Holtby, president and CEO of Soft Gel Technologies (Commerce, CA), agrees, specifying that fat-soluble CoQ10 is absorbed more readily when “placed in lipid media such as softgels or when taken with foods containing fat. A softgel delivery system plays a key role in enhancing the effectiveness of CoQ10 getting into the bloodstream,” he says.

“CoQ10, being a highly lipophilic and crystalline material, presents specific challenges that require an innovative approach,” Holtby continues. “Absorption [by the body] is dependent on the number and size of CoQ10 crystals within the product.” (The fewer and smaller the crystals, the better.)

He describes how Soft Gel Technologies’ CoQsol-CF formulation dissolves CoQ10 in solution, resulting in a “completely solubilized CoQ10 that does not require heat or synthetic solvents,” and the mixture “fully resists recrystallization at ambient temperature ranges.” By improving dissolution, he asserts, absorption is enhanced.

  1. Prakash, S et al. “Role of coenzyme Q10 as an antioxidant and bioenergizer in periodontal diseases.” Indian Journal of Pharmacology, vol. 42, no. 6 (December 2010): 334-337
  2. Tóth, Š et al. “Addition of omega-3 fatty acid and coenzyme Q10 to statin therapy in patients with combined dyslipidemia.” Journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology, vol. 28, no. 4 (July 2017): 327-336